As somebody who has lived and worked in a number of countries, I am always amazed at some restaurants production of ‘Authentic’ food from another country, quite often left disappointed by the lack of authenticity they show.
So I have tried to put together a list of some of my favourite ‘Authentic’ dishes from some of the countries where I’ve lived and worked. – Let me know if what I’m missing out on!
When you think of Greek food in the UK, you tend to start with Feta and Salads. When in truth the only time I’ve ever had a ‘Greek Salad’ in Greece is when you ask for a salad for the table – a rough mix of lettuce leaves, rough cut tomatoes and a whole slab of feta plonked on the top, sprinkled with oregano.
One of the stable dishes eaten on the go or as lunch in the office was always a Gyro’s. The Gyro refers to kebab meat, either Pork or Chicken, served in a Pita with Tzatziki, Onions, Tomatoes and CHIPS sprinkled with Paprika.
But when I think about the homely Greek Dishes, served up in Greek homes and in cantinas (Tavernas) – it’s either an oven cooked (Sto Forno) Chicken with oven cooked Potatoes. The chicken is a simple roast chicken, with the potatoes roasted in some liquid and lemon, so more like a semi boiled/fondant potato with a great lemon flavour.
Or Pastitsio – Kind of a Greek Lasagne – but made with small tubes of Pasta (Makarna Pasta), which is like Macaroni but the length of Spaghetti, mincemeat but with some cinnamon. And topped with a semolina based sauce topping.
I’ve enjoyed Indian food since taking an Indian cookery course at collage, however since living and working in India, my expectations of what makes a good curry have changed dramatically.
Yes you have to get used to the heat when in India, as Chilli or Black Pepper goes on everything. But what really gets you is the complexity of the dish.
My Favorite dishes when in India where
Murgh Makhani (Butter Chicken):- Whilst Butter Chicken is basically served up as chicken in a tomato sauce here in the UK, in India the dish is rich and flavoursome, and at times hotter then then many UK folks could bare. The point of the Butter Chicken, is that it is rich and buttery but with a complexity of spices that makes it so moreish.
Murgh Lababdar:- Like a Butter Chicken, the Lababdar Sauce is a rich and creamy gravy, but instead of using mainly tomato and butter, it uses cream and ground nuts along with a host of aromatic spices. Not found in many UK Curry Houses, this is a traditional Mughal dish that has pleased me every single time.
When thinking of Brazilian Food, most people would immediately associate the Churrascaria Style or Rodizio B-B-Q style, such as Fazenda or Bem Brazil. Now whilst these are found all over Brazil, most fondly remembering the beautiful Boi Preto in Salvador. These are a special go to type restaurant and actually originate from Argentina. The everyday food is more basic and usually made up of Rice and Black Beans, however there are a few special dishes that I feel in love with during my time living there.
Feijoada:- This is a Black Bean and Meat Stew – slow cooked pork and black beans are simmered for hours to make the most satisfying and warming stew dish.
Moqueca:- A real North East Brazil Dish – with African backgrounds, this is a Fish Stew made with tomatoes, Onion and Garlic and typically served with Rice and Farofa (A Toasted Cassava Flour) – This dish for me takes me straight back to the state of Bahia where I resided – and I haven’t found an authentic version of it anywhere else.
Of all the Mexican Restaurants I’ve ever been to, I don’t think I’ve ever eaten anything like the local food in Mexico.
I never had Enchiladas or Burritos whilst I was there. Although I did have Tacos. But these were again very different.
Living on the Mayan Coast, you found that everything catered for the mainly American tourist, however spending time in the residential areas you found some more authentic flavours.
My favourite ‘Taco Bar’ was the forecourt of someone’s driveway. Chairs and tables laid out on the drive, you had fresh flour tacos cooked with a mixture of different.
Chicken Mole:- A Chocolate Curry – Yep – that’s exactly what it is. A curry sauce made with chilli’s and cacao. You may think that sounds disgusting. But the Cacao is not a sweet milk chocolate. It’s a dark and complex even bitter chocolate which balances out a curry perfectly and makes it so rich and moreish.
OK, so TAPAS does win here. Beautiful little back street Tapa’s bars, serving the favourites that you now see all over Manchester and around the world. Cold Meats – Beautiful Cheeses, Garlic Prawns and of course ‘Crushed Eggs’ – This is one style of food that I can get in the UK and be happy with.
Portugal was my first overseas positioning and there is only one dish that takes me straight back
Grilled Sardines on Bread:- A hot Sardine, straight off the hot grill and placed on a thick slice of fresh bread. This is then eaten by breaking the fish off the bones with your fingers, using the bread as your plate. After eating the fish, you dispose of the bones and then enjoy the bread which by now is covered in all the juices from the fish
I spent a lot of my time in the Middle East based at my home point of Egypt. I had some beautiful dishes out here, including roast pigeon, but there is only one dish that truly takes me back.
Kosherie:- This is a cheap and cheerful, everyday food that is bursting with flavour. It’s simply a mixture of Rice, Lentils and Macaroni, topped with a spicy tomato sauce and crispy fried onions. It’s such a simple dish but wow – what a treat.